By Don Mallicoat-Monday, September 2nd, was opening day of hunting season. Traditionally I start the day in a dove field somewhere, most recently at Sandy Mush Game Lands. This year I had an opportunity to do something different on opening day. I went goose hunting that morning. A little background is in order.
If you remember my previous column about hunting as a wildlife management tool, which is exactly what is being done with the resident Canada goose population in North Carolina. Due to a burgeoning population, the early goose season is very generous. Starting on opening day and throughout the month of September you can legally bag 15 Canada geese a day, unplug your shotgun to hold five rounds, and use electronic calls.
When a member of the local Ducks Unlimited chapter, Aaron Jones, came by the store a couple of weeks ago and told me he had some geese scouted coming into a cow pasture over near Canton I kinda hinted that I would like to join him in a hunt. He was more than happy to have another gun since it was just he and his brother. So bright and early (actually before that) we met in Canton and moved to the field.
We spent the pre-dawn darkness setting out decoys and our layout blinds in the area where he had seen the geese in his previous scouting. He knew which direction they flew in from and the plan put them flying in from the south and landing just short of our decoy spread right in front of us. My mind went back to Army days when we said, “No plan survives contact with the enemy because they have a say in how the battle is fought.” Those words proved to be true.
The fog rolled in as the sun came up which delayed the birds’ arrival. About 7:45 a.m. Aaron said, “Here they come.” Sure enough, a flock of about twenty geese were low-level over the trees to the south. As they approached I tightened the grip on my Beretta A400 Xtreme in anticipation of their final approach. Then something happened. About forty yards short of our spread, they suddenly turned and landed short of our intended landing zone, and out of gun range. We lay silently in the blinds.
About five minutes later Aaron said, “Here comes some more.” Sure enough, about the same size flock approached along the same flight path. Surely they would land between the other flock and our decoy spread. Again my grip tightened on the shotgun. This group landed right behind the other group about forty yards out. We continued to lie silently and another five minutes passed when he said again, “Here come some more.” OK, these birds just had to land in our intended zone. No, they actually pitched in further out, about 50 yards away.
So here we lay, wondering what we were going to do. We’ve got sixty geese on the ground right at the limit of effective range for shooting these massive birds. After watching them mill around we decided they were moving away from us, not toward us. It was time for action. So we all sprang up from our layout blinds at the same time and shot at the birds as they took off. Each of us managed to scratch down a goose. We waited a couple more hours to see if they would return. By 10:30 it was obvious the day was over and we packed up and headed home.
I did get a little hunting in at Sandy Mush for dove that afternoon and despite my late arrival managed to scratch down enough birds for dinner the next evening. The point is I could have gone the safe route and just gone dove hunting. Something I’ve done time and again over the past 45 years. But this was a chance to do something different in the outdoors. Something I had never experienced before. Even though I only killed one goose it was a sight to remember seeing those huge birds cup their wings and land in front of us. I hope to do it again before the month is out.
And where is that goose? At my wife’s request I spent two hours plucking it (which is not recommended) to put in the freezer and our family will enjoy it for Christmas dinner. That’s what the outdoors and hunting is all about, the experience.